A Round-up of Argyle News
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Greens on Screen's Daily Diary is a compilation of Argyle news, with help from these and other Argyle-related sites.
On This Day:
Also included on the three most recent days, facts from Argyle's history.
Warren Feeney has welcomed the decision of Carl Fletcher to sign a new contract as manager of Argyle. Feeney thought Fletcher deserved a lot of credit for leading the club to safety last season, and said: "I know the gaffer from when I played with him at Bournemouth. It was a new experience for him being a manager but the job he did and what he achieved was second to none. He fully deserves all the credit he got. He took over when we were bottom of the table, with one point from their first nine names, and took us to safety. I'm sure he will want us to be up there next season but he will know these things can take time." Feeney has recently committed his future to Argyle, signing a one-year contract extension. He said: "It was an easy decision to make, definitely. I love it down here and it's a place I had wanted to come to for a while. It was just a matter of getting things sorted out with the contract. There was nowhere else I wanted to be. It's such a great club, and if I can benefit the team in any way then I will. From a personal point of view, I would have liked to get more goals but with the situation we were in, the main thing was to dig in and get over that line, which we did. We want to start going in the right direction now, but the thing is not to get carried away. We want to be up there challenging, but 23 other teams in the league will want to do the same." Many of Feeney's appearances last season were as a lone striker because the club were short of other options, and that contributed to his lack of goals. "It was tough but I will never shy away from hard work," he said. "I will do what it takes for the good of the team. I would like to stay here as long as I can." Meanwhile, Argyle membership sales for next season have passed the 3,000 mark. James Brent hailed the figure as 'simply incredible'.
Argyle will begin their pre-season with a friendly at Yeovil Town on Saturday, July 21st. The full pre-season schedule will be announced in the coming weeks.
Conor Hourihane won his seventh cap, as a 55th minute substitute, for the Republic of Ireland under-21's as they lost 2-1 at home to Denmark in last nights friendly.
James Brent expects Argyle to strengthen 'a few areas' of their playing squad before the start of next season. He said: "We have a good core squad but I think there are a few areas we will look to improve. We have a combination of some quite considerable experience, in Wotton, Chadwick and Purse, and young players with significant potential for the future, such as Youngy and Matty. The fact we have gone for a hungry, young, talented striker is probably no great surprise. I'm sure people outside the club would have put bets on that being one of the areas we would look to strengthen. What Carl has said to me is if you bring in four or five players to an existing squad you have got a team with additions. Any more than that, though, and you are starting from scratch." Romain Larrieu and Kevin Nancekivell have also signed one-year rolling contracts to stay at Home Park. Brent thought it was important to retain their services, as well as Fletcher, because they have forged such a strong partnership. He said: "I was very hopeful they would sign on the basis there is a lot of respect between Carl, Ro and Nance on one part and the club on the other. It's a fun relationship." Brent believes one-year rolling contracts are better than those for a fixed term. It avoids clubs having to pay substantial settlement packages to managers who are sacked while on long-term deals, but short-term contracts can be seen as a signal that a club lacks belief in their boss. Rolling contracts also mean talks over new deals, which often take place at important stages of a season, are not necessary. Brent said: "It strikes me as the right balance of not going too long and potentially rewarding people for failure with large windfalls, and showing confidence you think you have the right management team in place." Fletcher announced his retirement as a player after signing his new contract. Brent added: "It was totally Carl's decision to retire. We offered him a manager's contract because he made it clear that was what he wanted to focus on. We have talked about what our aspirations for the club are, and that is to win. But what we aren't going to do is buy success at any cost. Whatever we do needs to be financially sane. We need sustainable growth, not volatility, and we can do that by developing young players."
Woking striker Paris Cowan-Hall has become Carl Fletcher's first new signing of the summer. Cowan-Hall has passed a medical and will officially complete his move on July 1st. He was out of contract at Woking, but because of his age and the fact he was offered a new deal, Argyle have had to agree an undisclosed compensation fee. As per current club policy, Argyle have not disclosed the length of contract Cowan-Hall has signed.
Carl Fletcher was keen to pay tribute to Romain Larrieu and Kevin Nancekivell when new contracts for the management team were announced yesterday. He said: "They have been through as much as I have. I'm the one who gets put up in front of the cameras and ultimately the final decisions are down to me, but they are in here every day as much as I am and work just as hard. So, it was important we got the three of us together." Argyle are set to start pre-season training in the first week of July and Fletcher added: "Pre-season is important for players and the team and we have got to make sure that is right. We will be working hard, trying to do things the right way, and we're looking forward to it. We have got a real good bond in the changing room, and we have got some real good players coming through from our youth team that made quite a big impact last season."
James Brent says the budget handed to Carl Fletcher will allow him to put together a competitive side. "We're very confident the budget the board has set is sufficient to create a very competitive team," he said. "That's not just a sound bite, that's in terms of what other teams are doing in terms of their budgets. We're not saying to Carl and his colleagues 'this is a promotion budget and you need to guarantee promotion'. What we're saying is that this is a good budget and we want them to progress with the team and do the very best we can and we keep our fingers crossed that that might involve promotion. We've had discussions with them in terms of where we'd like to see the club go both in terms of the positioning within the league, the ambition for promotion and the quality of football. But how Carl, Ro and Nance get there is of their own doing." Brent says all he is concerned with is that the club improve and that they invest in younger players. He added: "The focus now is on winning, but what we also want the management team to do is to develop our young players and not just to buy success. We're desperately keen for promotion next year and we'll support the team in striving to achieve it. But I think if the team fail to achieve promotion next year we're hardly going to sack them if they've performed well."
Carl Fletcher has signed a one-year rolling contract to continue as manager of Argyle and, at the same time, retired as a player. Romain Larrieu and Kevin Nancekivell have signed similar deals. Fletcher said: "It's great. I'm honoured and really happy to be able to sign a contract. We had to make sure things were right, make sure we discussed things with the family, and we got it done. We have tried to lay certain foundations and certain things we want around the club, and how we want the club to come across and what we expect from players. It's nice to be given the chance to carry that on and, like we have said, keep putting the pride back in the shirt. It would be good to take the momentum of what we achieved last year into the new season." The use of the word 'we' is no exaggeration. When Fletcher talks, he talks on behalf of Larrieu and Nancekivell. "They have been through as much as I have," he said. "I'm the one who gets put up in front of the cameras, and ultimately, the final decisions are down to me, but they are in here every day as much as I am and work just as hard. So, it was important we got the three of us together. We are not the same people, we are all different, which brings a good dimension into it. We readily disagree on some things, which keeps it fresh as there's always plenty to talk about or something we need to iron out. Also, when I say 'we', it's not just us in here and the staff; it's the players, as well. They are the ones who, at the end of the day, go over the white line and try to do what we want them to do. It's a team thing, if you don't get everyone pushing in the right direction, you won't get anything achieved." Fletcher is aware that Argyle's survival was in the 'not pretty but effective' category. However, he is aiming to improve things come August. "This year, it was important just to get results, and we made that clear," he said. "We had to that. Playing badly and winning 1-0 would have done us. Now, we have got a bit of time. Hopefully, we'll get a good pre-season in and we put our stamp on what we want and what we expect. There's a little bit that is already embedded in the players because we have been here a little while, certain things like being professional and doing things the right way, but in terms of playing, we can maybe work on things in a little bit more detail." The players report back for pre-season training July 5th, but there is plenty to do before that. Fletcher added: "I'll try to get a bit of a break and switch off for a little bit, let the mind and body recharge, and come back and get straight back into it again. Pre-season is important for players and the team and we have got to make sure that is right. We have got to make sure that is right. We'll be working hard, trying to do things the right way, and we're looking forward to it. We have got a real good bond in the changing-room, and we have got some real good players coming through from our youth team that made quite a big impact last season."
James Brent believes the retention of Carl Fletcher, Romain Larrieu and Kevin Nancekivell is another sign of intent from the club. He said: "I'm delighted Carl, Ro and Nance have agreed to continue their leadership roles at our club. In avoiding relegation, they proved to us all that passion, commitment and teamwork can deliver what more experienced pundits thought was impossible. After three very challenging years, our club is now riding high. Stability has returned and self-belief is returning. Carl and his colleagues have a full close season to retain and recruit the squad, they have already been pretty active, and develop the team in training. What can our management team achieve in these circumstances? Who will end up the leading Devon club? I can't wait for the start of the new season to find out."
Carl Fletcher has confirmed that his playing career has ended. "That's me done," he said. "Last year, it was a good decision that I made, for the best for the team. A lot of people said I needed to play, but I felt that was not right for the whole club and the team. This year, it's done and dusted." Fletcher walks away without having taken a final on-field bow. "That doesn't bother me," he said. "I have enjoyed playing there have been highs and lows and tough days and good days, but it's on to a new era in my life. I am starting again and trying to build my reputation up as a manager now. Pretty much the same things you need as a player, you need as a manager: you have got to work hard and try to do things the right way, and be your own person. Try to get a little bit of luck along the way and you shouldn't have any problems."
John Deehan is leaving Home Park. He was appointed to the role of Director of Football in January on a short-term contract, which will not be renewed when it expires at the end of this month. James Brent: "We would like to thank John for his valuable input during the second half of last season. He provided our management team with important back-up as we successfully won our vital battle to remain in the Football League. John leaves Home Park with our very best wishes for his future career."
Conor Hourihane is excited about being part of the Republic of Ireland under-21 squad and does not mind having his summer holiday interrupted by international duty. He said: "I came home to Ireland after the end of the season and had 10 days off, but I have been training for the last week. I have done some running and been to the local gym. As I played so much last season, I don't think I have lost too much fitness. It's always great to play for the under-21s. Obviously, it takes up a bit of the summer break, but football comes first for me and I'm looking forward to the two games. Hopefully, I will get some time out on the pitch." Hourihane knows Ireland will face a tough task against Italy, who beat Scotland 4-1 in a friendly in Edinburgh last month. Alex MacDonald, who was on loan at Argyle at the time, started the game for the Scots. Hourihane said: "He thought Italy were a very strong side. It's always good to compare yourself against decent opposition." Hourihane will have a month's break after the game against Italy before Argyle start pre-season training in early July and he hopes to build on the success of his first campaign at Home Park. He said: "I played 42 games, including cup ties, last season and I couldn't have asked for any more. If I hadn't been sent-off twice I could have played in even more. Next season, I want to play 40-plus games again."
The Argyle Legends beat the Manchester United Legends 5-3 at Home Park yesterday. Martin Barlow scored two of the goals and Mark Damerell, Darren Garner and Marcus Crocker were also on target. Argyle: Rhys Wilmot; Geoff Battams, Chris Harrison, Darren Tallon, Leigh Cooper; David Byrne, Martin Barlow, Darren Garner, Mark Rowe, Mark Damerell; Tommy Tynan. Subs - Garry Penhaligon, Ryan Draper, Kevin Hodges, John Uzzell, Spencer Cooper, Ryan Cross, Jason Rowbotham, Marcus Crocker, Paul Smith. United: Fraser Digby; Alan McLoughlin, Mike Duxbury, Lee Martin, Arthur Albiston; Peter Davenport, Clayton Blackmore, Sammy McIlroy, Mickey Thomas; Frank Stapleton, Andy Ritchie. Subs - Deniol Graham, Carlo Sartori. Guests: Sean Carter, Andy Notman, Tom Flynn, Mike Newell. Attendance: 3,742.
Warren Feeney did not have to think twice about extending his Argyle career. He said: "I'm buzzing. I didn't really want to go anywhere else. Once the new contract was offered to me, it was just a matter of getting things sorted. It is such a great club. After last year, we are at a new beginning and I want to be part of that. I think the future is looking good. It was a hell of a battle last season, which was a new experience for lots of us, but we did what we needed to do. Now there is a fresh challenge for everyone and I'm really looking forward to it. I think that we have got a bunch of boys who have got a special spirit and a young gaffer who did so well in his first season who will be up for the challenge."
Ollie Chenoweth has signed a new contract with Argyle, which takes him through to the summer of 2013. Joe Lennox has also agreed a short-term deal. Chenoweth said: "I found out from the manager on the last day of the season I was getting a new deal. Signing it was an easy decision. It's nice that it's for a year, as my last couple at the club have been for six months. I would like to think I can push Jake and, hopefully, get to make a few more first team appearances. I get on really well with Jake. He has helped me a lot and is great to work with in training." Argyle escaped relegation last season and Chenoweth is optimistic their fortunes are about to start improving. He added: "I'm sure better times are ahead because the club seems a lot more stable than it was. I'm looking forward to next season."
Warren Feeney has signed his one-year contract extension offer.
Onismor Bhasera has been included in the Zimbabwe squad for their World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers next month. Zimbabwe host Guinea in a World Cup qualifier on June 3rd, before travelling to Mozambique the following weekend. They then return home on June 15th for the second leg of their African Nations Cup qualifier against Burundi.
Carl Fletcher believes that playing international football will assist the development of Conor Hourihane. The Republic of Ireland under-21s have a friendly against Denmark next Monday before a European Under-21 Championship qualifier at home to Italy on June 4th. Fletcher said: "I have spoken to Conor and said to him to go there and give it 100 per cent. International football is a great stage for him to play on and to keep developing as a player. It will stand him in good stead for the future." Meanwhile, Fletcher has praised the professionalism of Luke Daley, who has been released by Argyle. He said: "Luke is a great professional. He always trained well, even when he wasn't playing, and never caused any problems. I would like to thank him for what he did for us and wish him all the best for the future."
Kevin Nancekivell looks back with satisfaction on a season of survival with Argyle. When he was appointed first-team coach in November, Argyle were in administration and desperately trying to avoid relegation. Carl Fletcher promoted Nancekivell to join him and Romain Larrieu on the first-team staff and although they lacked experience, turned things around to keep Argyle in the Football League. Nancekivell said: "It was a whirlwind six months. It all happened so quickly and it was just a case of going in, getting your hands dirty and getting on with it. The situation of being in the bottom two made it much more difficult. You're always looking over your shoulder, always fighting under pressure. Carl, Ro and myself were all inexperienced in terms of first-team coaching. We are at the same stage of our careers and we get on fabulously. We have our moments where we disagree. None of us are yes men but we work together and we are all passionate about our football and passionate about Plymouth Argyle." Under new owner James Brent, Argyle moved out of administration and a run of six wins and nine draws in 19 matches after Christmas saw them edge to safety. "To be safe with two games to spare was more than we could have hoped for," said Nancekivell. "There was a mixture of relief and a lot of pride with what we had achieved. We'd had two relegations, from the Championship to League One and from League One to League Two. Going down the next one to the Conference would have been a catastrophe for a club like ours." Nancekivell admitted he was surprised Fletcher gave him the call despite his eight years with the centre of excellence, where he helped develop players like Dan Gosling and Joe Mason. The pressure and the publicity of first-team football was the main difference from the youth set-up. "With the kids it's about youth development and results are second," he said. "It doesn't matter if you win on a Saturday. You like to win but it's not the be-all and end-all. Now, on a Saturday, winning is the be-all and end-all. With the financial side of our club, we are going to have to rely heavily on our young players. It's hugely important to have the North Devon Development Centre at Chivenor and the other centres. It only needs one or two of them to come through in the next four or five years and you have saved yourself a lot of money." Still living in North Devon, Nancekivell sees the enthusiasm people in the region have for Argyle. "I am away from home a lot and I couldn't do it without the support of my family and friends," he said. "I have had so many messages from friends. There's a huge following up in North Devon and the North Devon Greens have been fantastic for us. We appreciate their support, we know how far they travel and we want to repay their faith." The management team have all been offered contracts for next season and their future should be confirmed soon. Nancekivell is looking forward to starting afresh in League Two and added: "It will be nice to do a pre-season with the players we have brought in. It will be nice to be looking upwards rather than looking behind us."
Carl Fletcher believes there is still a lot of football left in Warren Feeney. He said: "I wouldn't say he's getting towards the end of his career. He's 31 and if you look after yourself you can play well past 35. You see a number of players do that these days. Warren has got great experience and he's a great person to have around the dressing room. He played a massive part in why we had such a great team spirit last season. You know what you are going to get from Warren. He always gives 100 per cent, whether he plays good or bad. He never shirks hard work." Argyle have offered new deals to five players, including Feeney, but there has been no confirmation whether any of the players have accepted the terms offered. Ollie Chenoweth will be the back-up to Jake Cole should he sign his new contract and Fletcher believes he has a lot of potential. "You know with goalies they don't reach their peak until their mid to late 20s and he's still only young," he said. "He's maturing, physically and mentally, he's another local lad and he's great to have around the place." Talks about new contracts for Fletcher, Romain Larrieu and Kevin Nancekivell are continuing to take place.
Kevin Nancekivell is relishing the prospect of Devon derbies against Exeter City and Torquay United next season. He said: "All three of us are used to being on the road so it will be a nice break to have two away games which are only 45 minutes away. It creates a lot of local interest and guarantees big gates, hopefully over Bank Holiday periods. We played Torquay at Home Park on January 2nd this year and there were nearly 13,000 people there that day." Paul Tisdale has been Exeter City manager for the last six years and Nancekivell has great respect for him. He said: "Paul and his staff have done a fantastic job in keeping Exeter in League One for three seasons. They are a good footballing team and the players know the system and understand the philosophy behind it. I expect them to be very strong in League Two next season." The last time the teams met was in April 2011, when Exeter beat Argyle at St James' Park to effectively relegate the Pilgrims. Nancekivell was there that day, although not in an official capacity for the club. He said: "It was not a nice feeling to lose that game, but there is great rivalry between the clubs and that's the way it should be." Torquay completed the double over Argyle last season and Nancekivell added: "They were probably one of the strongest sides we played against. They played some terrific football and fully deserved to be in the play-offs, and are unlucky not to be going up. I watched both play-off games on TV and they couldn't have done a lot more than they did in the second leg. They will be licking their wounds at the moment but what a fantastic season they have had." Fleetwood Town and York have both been promoted from the Conference so Argyle will have two more long trips north. They also have to visit Accrington Stanley, Bradford City, Chesterfield, Morecambe and Rotherham United. Nancekivell said: "We are used to all the travelling and use it to our advantage. We prepare properly and it's not a problem."
Argyle have offered new deals to five of their out of contract players. The five, Warren Feeney, Robbie Williams, Durrell Berry, Joe Lennox and Ollie Chenoweth, have been offered terms for when their contracts run out at the end of next month, although no further details have been released. However, Luke Daley and Damien Johnson have been released.
Argyle are set to top the 2,000 figure for membership sales for next season by today. James Brent admitted he is 'humbled' by the response of supporters to the new scheme. He said: "I continue to be humbled by the support which the Green Army shows our great club. The shift from season tickets to membership packages, tailored to meet the needs of our different fans, was designed as part of the improved fan engagement. I am delighted by the response of our fans and I can't wait for the start of the new season." Head of communications Rick Cowdery added: "The response to our invitation to the Green Army to 'Join the Club' has been extremely encouraging. The Box Office has never been as busy as they have been this early in the close-season, but being busy makes them happy, so that's a really good thing. We hope that they will stay busy, and happy, throughout the summer as more of the greatest fans in the country take advantage of the various membership packages. We really want to turn Home Park into a fortress on matchdays, and the more people that join the club, the more chance there is of that happening."
Conor Hourihane has been called up to the Republic of Ireland under-21's squad for their UEFA 2013 European Championship Qualifier against Italy next month. The squad will also play a friendly against Denmark on May 28th.
Argyle will be wasting no time in trying to strengthen their squad, Romain Larrieu has insisted. He said Carl Fletcher and himself realise the need to freshen up the dressing room but they had to balance those ambitions by deciding on whether to keep or release the seven players who are out of contract at the end of June. They are Durrell Berry, Robbie Williams, Luke Daley, Damien Johnson, Joe Lennox, Ollie Chenoweth and Warren Feeney. "It is early days yet with the season only just finished, but Carl and myself are very focused on getting to work on next season," said Larrieu. "We know that Argyle, like every club, need new faces but they have to be the right type and quality to move us upwards. But we also have to look at the players whose contracts are up at the end of next month, which ultimately will be Carl's decision. It's never an easy decision to make nor is trying to bring in the right type of player, but at least we don't have the burden of being in administration, which made has made the past year such a horrible time for everyone at the club. We look at this as a new beginning for the club and although we can look back with pride at the players who helped us survive with three matches still to play, our thoughts now are very much on the future." Fletcher and Larrieu were guests at the League Managers Association ceremony in London on Monday night. Larrieu said the pair were on the same table as Harry Redknapp and his assistants. "It was a great event and me and Carl just happened to be on Harry's table which was an added bonus," he said. "He was very sociable and interested in us at Plymouth and appreciative of all that we've been through. I've only just finished my playing career and now need to refresh my contacts book. So, going to events like the LMA dinner is extremely useful, as well as giving your ambitions a big push, too." Larrieu added that he and Fletcher were ruling 'nothing out' in terms of whether to use the transfer market, loan or overseas markets, but that the bottom line is that anyone offered a place in the squad must have the 'requisite quality to improve us', including a 'strong core of British players'.
Carl Fletcher believes the businesslike approach of James Brent is the way forward for Argyle. Fletcher said: "With James, what you see is what you get. He's a nice gentleman. You can definitely see why he has got where he has in business. He knows what he's talking about and what needs to be done. It was important for Plymouth he came in and saved the football club. James will run it as a business, which I think you have to do these days. You have to run it to its means. There is no point in thinking, 'if we spend over our budget we might have a chance of certain things happening'. You have got to believe in what you are trying to do as a football club and keep it within the boundaries of your financial restraints, otherwise you get in trouble like we were. We are lucky now that all our skeletons are out of the closet, so to speak, and we are working off a fresh sheet of paper." Fletcher admitted Brent, who has regularly attended home and away fixtures, was learning fast about football. He said: "I think James is well aware his knowledge of football isn't that great, but it's getting better each game he goes to. I speak to him about why I make certain decisions or what's going on. I think we are both very ambitious people. He's a workaholic and wants this football club to succeed, and I'm no different." Fletcher was appointed as Argyle manager last September and he admitted one of the hardest parts of his role was telling players they would not be in the team, whether it was for form or tactical reasons. He said: "You try to look at it from every angle, but you can't keep everyone happy. I don't think there is any need to be horrible to anyone in certain situations. If things need to be said, truthfully and honestly, then they get said. That's one of my main things, we try to be honest with everyone, whether they like what we have got to say or they don't. We try to be as honest as we can be."
Argyle will be aiming for promotion from League Two next season, James Brent has declared. However, he warned the pursuit of success would not be at any expense. He said: "I can't see that a club like Argyle should be doing anything other than competing to win. That's always the aspiration and what we will drive towards. But given what the club has been through, if we fail to meet that aspiration no-one is going to be reckless." Brent hopes to retain the services of Carl Fletcher, Romain Larrieu and Kevin Nancekivell next season. Talks have taken place with all three of them, and they are already planning for 2012/13, but agreements are not yet in place. Brent added: "I think everyone's belief is we have a good core to the squad and we also have some very good youth coming through. Seeing it all come together for Luke Young, for example, in the last couple of games was great. So it's really a combination of making sure we develop our own young players and build on the core that we already have. The intention is to add to the squad."
Argyle almost did not sign Maxime Blanchard, Carl Fletcher has revealed. He said: "Max had a couple of games here on trial. It was tough because we were crying out for an older, experienced centre-half who could organise and be dominant. Max didn't really fit that bill, so we were very wary of bringing him in as one of our first signings. It wasn't the priority. But once we had got Darren Purse sorted, it was key that we got Max in. We knew that, technically, he was very good and better than what we had. He showed it with his performances throughout the rest of the season." One of the keys to staying up for Argyle was their much-improved defensive record over the second half of the season. The return to the club of Paul Wotton in January also played an important part in that. Fletcher made no apologies for making sure Argyle were solid defensively, at the expense of more attacking intentions. He said: "The situation we were in, we were never going to come out and play pretty football and win games three or four-nil. Do you try to play nice football and maybe lose a couple of games and not get the results you need? We felt we had to be hard to beat. Even if we weren't playing well we would be nice and solid and try to keep clean sheets. As I have said before, the more clean sheets you keep, the more games you are likely to win. That was where we set our base out from, and you build from there."
Luke Young has admitted being named as Argyle's young player-of-the-year capped a memorable first season as a professional. He said: "It's a big boost to cap the season I have had, where I have exceeded my expectations, by winning this award. I can't ask for anything more. I have just got to kick on next season now." Former award winner Joe Mason played a starring role for Cardiff City this season, which included scoring one of their goals in the Carling Cup final against Liverpool. Young has been pleased to see his fellow Plymothian make such an impact, and said: "Mase has done so well this season and been rewarded with a new contract. It's nice to see my name alongside his on that trophy, two players who have come up through the youth team and got offered pro contracts." That trend is continuing with five apprentices, Jordan Copp, Jed Harper-Penman, Matt Lecointe, Jared Sims and Isaac Vassell, stepping up to Argyle's senior squad next season. Young said: "That's what fans want to see, young local players coming up through the ranks. Being able to put on that shirt and go out and perform in front of them is always a honour for me." Young made 21 starts and seven substitute appearances for Argyle this season, scoring two goals. He added: "At the start of the season, I would have been very happy with a handful of games. So, to have played nearly 30 is very nice. Next season, I will be looking to better that, and, hopefully, the club will be in a position to get promoted. When I first came in I was a bit nervous and you have your ups and downs. But the more games I played, and the more time you spend around the players, it gives you a big boost. To end the season the way I have, you could say you don't want it to end, but from a team perspective you want it to end because we are safe and we will be playing League Two football next year."
Carl Fletcher has no regrets about putting management before his playing career with Argyle. He said: "I didn't think I could have put my full worth into either of them if I was doing both. I felt it was important to make that decision and stick by it, really. There were plenty of times when I could have gone out and played again, but I stuck to what I felt was best for the football club and it worked well for us. It was important to give my full attention and focus to one thing." Fletcher had made 11 starts and one substitute appearance for Argyle at the start of the season, scoring two goals, before he stopped playing. It was seen by many as quite a sacrifice to make for someone who was arguably still the best player at Home Park, but Fletcher said: "I didn't really see it like that. I saw it as stepping into another opportunity. The way football had been here the last couple of years it was almost a relief not to be involved in that side, as it had been tough." Peter Reid was sacked as manager after a defeat at Southend United and less than 48 hours later, Fletcher was appointed, assisted by Romain Larrieu. Fletcher said: "It was a strange few days. Obviously, you have to think about things and it was all a bit of a whirlwind. But I was very lucky and very honoured to be asked to manage such a good club. I hadn't been looking any further forward than it being the last season of my contract as a player here. I had done my B licence in the summer, and once the job was offered my way then, after thinking about a few things I felt it was definitely worth giving it a go. You would rather have a go and fail at it, than let the chance pass by." Fletcher appointed Kevin Nancekivell to his coaching staff in December and between them, Fletcher, Larrieu and Nancekivell formed a close management trio. Fletcher said: "We are all different, so we have all got our different inputs, which I think is good. There is no point in the three of us agreeing on everything and just nodding heads all the time. Ro has been here a long time and knows the ins and outs of everyone, and knows Plymouth like the back of his hand, so to speak. And we were really impressed with Nance with what we saw of him when he was involved with the youth team and the reserves. We're all young and inexperienced, but are trying to learn every day and take things on board."
Matt Lecointe has taken the success he has had at Argyle this season in his stride, according to Carl Fletcher, who also has no fears that high expectation levels will prove a distraction. He said: "Most of the fans have seen him this season, so it's not like he has just come out of nowhere. They know what Matty is about, and what he can do. He is very mature for his age and I'm sure he will deal with everything that has come along. He has had a lot going on in one season. He played a lot for the first team early doors, and it was great for him to get his first goals for the club. Obviously, the England call-up was massive for Matty and his family. It was great for them. So he has had a lot to take in, in a short space of time, and that will only bode him well for the future and make him stronger. You only have to see Matty every day. He takes it all in his stride, which is a good thing." Lecointe's reward for all his endeavours this term has been his first professional contract. Fletcher added: "We are pleased to tie him down. Hopefully, with all the experience he has got this season he can keep pushing in the right direction." Meanwhile, Darren Purse has had a successful operation on a toe injury.
Romain Larrieu has hung up his goalkeepers' gloves so he can fully focus on his coaching role at Argyle. He said: "It's not something I have been thinking about for a long time, because there has been quite a few things on my mind, as you might imagine. But it's something that has popped in and out of my head and, obviously, Carl asked me a few times because it is a vital position in the team. Being in the position that I'm in at the club now, I found it really hard to train on a regular basis, and I don't think that's fair on the lads if I'm going to be a back-up. I think every position should be challenged for, and goalkeeper is no different. We want every position to be competitive, so I'm fine with stepping down. I have had my fun. It had to stop one day, and it was on Saturday. That's it." Larrieu was sent on as an 85th minute substitute against Cheltenham for an emotional farewell. Larrieu said: "I know what the people think of me. They have always been loud and clear. They have stuck by us in the last three or four years when they could easily have walked away because we were in such a difficult position. But they have always been there, and they have always been good to me. I have had tough times, when I didn't play, but they have stuck by me and given me the chance to come back. So 'thank you' to all the supporters." There have been some dark days at Argyle over recent years, but Larrieu is optimistic they are behind them now. He said: "I feel like we are already moving forward. The owner has been very, very supportive. He wants us to do well, and we want to do well. We are prepared to go a long way to make sure this club is successful. The boys have shown that. With the kind of pressure they have been under, to have the record we did, especially against the teams in and around us, was unbelievable. There is a good buzz in the dressing room, but we need to keep going and get better." Larrieu has enjoyed his first taste of coaching and working behind the scenes at Home Park, but it has been time-consuming. He added: "It's a change of life, in terms of the hours that you have to put in. It has been really demanding, but everybody has been supportive, especially my wife and children. It has been an eye-opener, even though as you get older you start to have your own idea of what you think a football coach and a football team should be like. We have our ideas and we want to put them across. Nance, who was our first signing, has been terrific. The dynamic between us is good. We had a lot of lows in the first six months but we have always picked ourselves up, and the boys have done it themselves. We need a new challenge now and we have already started to pester the board for next season, so that's good." Larrieu has always been interested in a career in coaching beyond his playing days and was thrilled when Fletcher offered him the opportunity. Fletcher has yet to commit to staying on as manager, but all the indications are that he will do so. Larrieu said: "You don't want to say anything until you have signed, because the first thing is it's unfair on the fans. I know he has been in talks with the club. I have started talks with them and I know Nance has done as well. We know what opportunity this club has and we want to take it where it was when Carl signed a few years ago. I like to be involved in the whole process. Not as much in terms of taking the team for training, but in the way we prepare for games. I have got my opinions and I'm not shy to say what I believe in. We bounce ideas off each other. It's good. I'm passionate, Carl is passionate and Nance is passionate. There is a good feeling in our office."
Talks about Carl Fletcher continuing as Argyle manager into next season are 'progressing', according to James Brent. He said: "We have had discussions with him which are progressing. Carl has made his comments about his enthusiasm for Argyle, and I have made comments on behalf of the board about our enthusiasm for him. So, hopefully, one plus one makes two. But until the fat lady sings, we are not done. I think Carl has proven himself to be more than capable to lead this football club and we are keeping our fingers crossed we can get everything resolved. I'm keen for it to be done as quickly as possible. But, I would hasten to add that Carl is working very hard at the moment, planning for next season regardless of his contractual status. He's not sitting on his hands." Brent hopes to see Argyle challenging towards the top of League Two next season, and added: "Until we were mathematically safe, we asked everyone to focus 100 per cent attention on that. Now that we are safe, we are very much focusing on preparations for next season. The supporters have stuck by us by virtue of loyalty and positivity towards the club, and what we would like to do is show them better quality football and more exciting times. I'm absolutely thrilled we avoided relegation and delighted by the team spirit we have got, both among the management and the players. I'm now very much looking forward to next season." Romain Larrieu announced his retirement from playing before Saturday's game and Brent said: "Romain is a lovely guy and, hopefully, he will remain associated with the club for many years to come. I think what kept us from relegation was passion, emotion, drive, hard work and everything that followed on from that. Skill, as far as I can see at this level, is just part of it. There has got to be the enthusiasm to win and to do the right thing by the club, and I think Ro shows that as much as any person."
Maxime Blanchard was yesterday named as Argyle Player of the Season. Luke Young won the Young Player of the Season award. Carl Fletcher said: "It's great for Max. He's come in and worked hard. Not just generally, but working hard to get better. I think the trial at our club was his last knockings. I think if he didn't get anything here, he was back to France and getting an office job. I'm really pleased for him. I think you could have given it to a number of players because they've all done their bit in every way. We know Young's a good player, we see him every day. He is a central midfielder. Most of his games this season have been out on the wing, it's not his natural position. He's put in the hard work, and he's put a shift in. That's what we expect from him."
Romain Larrieu nearly did not get to say his playing goodbye to Home Park yesterday, but Carl Fletcher said that he was forced to overrule his number two and send Le Keeper into the fray. Fletcher said: "He was saying to me all second half 'Don't do it; let's try to win the game; put on a striker', but it doesn't happen a lot these days when someone is there for 11 years at a football club. You have to see the bigger picture and I think it's important for Romain to be out there one last time in front of the home fans. He's been a great servant to the club through highs and lows. I'm sure it's been an emotional day." The game was also the final opportunity to see Juvhel Tsoumou and Alex McDonald. They will return to their clubs, along with fellow loanees Paul Bignot and Ashley Hemmings. Fletcher said of them: "All the loanees, everyone that's been here this season, it goes without saying that we thank them for all their efforts. And all the players, really. From a staff point of view, we ask them to work hard each and every day, to improve and get better, and they've taken it on board. It's easy enough to turn up at training and go through the motions and make excuses. But they haven't. They've been professional and where the club is today is all down to them."
Despite a defeat to Cheltenham Town in the season's final game, Carl Fletcher was keen to stress that the club's survival after a difficult year was the most important thing. "Both on and off the pitch, it's about the bigger picture," he said, "In terms of today we're disappointed about a few things. Today's game was good for me to find out a few things, when the pressure's not on and it's not a must win game. We've been lucky. As the season went on, we thought it might go down to the last game, but, thankfully for us, it didn't. Today, we didn't play great but we still had plenty of opportunities where we could have scored four or five goals. For an end of season game where both teams had nothing to play for, it wasn't a bad spectacle." To avoid relegation this season will long be remembered as up there with the best achievements in the club's history. Fletcher would not acknowledge this accolade, but he does admit that in time the feeling may come. "It's probably still not sunk in, really," he said, "Maybe it will once everything's died down and the games have stopped. You'd have to ask my wife, I'm never happy! I think generally I'm a hard person to please. I always want more, I always want to improve. Probably the only thing that would have kept me happy would have been if we'd won every game I'd been in charge of. As a club, as a football team, it's been a massive, massive step. There's a togetherness in the changing-room and I think that comes across in the games to the fans, and that's want we want. If this football club is ever going to achieve anything - we're not suddenly going to be able to spend loads of money and buys loads of players - it's going to need everybody pushing in the right direction to achieve things. There will be good days, bad days and indifferent days. But as long as everyone sticks to the same game plan and everyone sings from the same hymn sheet then you won't go far wrong."
Argyle lost 2-1 to Cheltenham Town at Home Park, the goal scored by Juvhel Tsoumou after 54minutes. Argyle: Cole, Berry, Nelson, Blanchard, Williams, Soukouna, Young, Hourihane, Bhasera, MacDonald, Feeney. Subs – Larrieu, Lennox, Tsoumou (not used –Sims, Bignot). Attendance – 8,342.
Romain Larrieu has announced his retirement from football. He is expected to make a final appearance for the club against Cheltenham Town today, after starting the match on the bench. His retirement is reported to be a possible sign that Carl Fletcher will continue as Argyle manager next season, with Larrieu and Kevin Nancekivell assisting him.
Jordan Copp, Isaac Vassell and Jed Harper-Penman have all been offered professional contracts with Argyle but Dan Hart and Jordan Pearce have been released.
Carl Fletcher is delighted that Maxime Blanchard has signed a new contract with Argyle. He said: "Max has been a consistent player all season. He's the type of player any club wants. He's very dedicated and professional and he likes to do the things the right way. It's pleasing for the club to get him signed onto a longer term deal." The partnership between Blanchard and Darren Purse has been central to Argyle keeping eight clean sheets since the new year, but Fletcher added: "It's not just my two centre-halves but all the defenders, really. Whoever played, whoever has to come in through injury or whatever, everyone knows their role. I've said all along that, the more clean sheets you're going to get, the more games you're going to win. At the start of the season, we couldn't buy a clean sheet."
Darren Purse will sit out Argyle's game against Cheltenham Town tomorrow because of a toe operation. Nick Chadwick and Paul Wotton will also not be involved. Chadwick has been struggling for some time with a sore knee and Wotton will not play because should he receive a yellow card he would be suspended for the first three matches of next season under a disciplinary totting-up procedure. Carl Fletcher said: "Pursey has got to have an op, so he won't be available. He has got a bad toe. He has had it for a fair few years, and, every now and again, he has to keep on top of it. He's just going back in to make sure it's all nice and tidy for next season. He has been in a bit of pain with it and been playing through it. It's nice to get him in. Chads has been struggling for the last three months really. He has probably been playing at 65-70 per cent fitness, wanting to do his bit for the team. It's an ideal time now to leave him out and help him recover properly through the off season. He has had a lot of pain in his knee, so we are going to make sure it's nothing too serious," added the Pilgrims' boss. We don't want to leave it over the summer and then come back next season and it's exactly the same. We will make sure we are 100 per cent confident of where it is and where it's going to be." Fletcher would not say whether Jake Cole would return to the team tomorrow in place of Ollie Chenoweth, but added: "Whatever side we put out, we will make sure we are 100 per cent competitive."
There has still been no decision made on whether Carl Fletcher will continue as Argyle manager next season. Fletcher said: "It's a long break this summer because of the Euros, so there is plenty of time for things to get sorted and taken of. Whatever happens will be in the best interests of Plymouth Argyle. That's the main thing." Although Fletcher's future is unclear, that has not put off Maxime Blanchard and Matt Lecointe from signing new contracts this week. Fletcher said: "I think it shows you what the players think about the football club. No one individual is ever going to be bigger than Plymouth Argyle. All the players who are going to be here next season love the place and they want to do well for the club. They have shown that this season when they have played, and it's shown by their commitment to stay at this football club." The Argyle squad were treated to an overseas, warm weather break this week by Brent as a reward for their endeavours in making sure the club escaped relegation from the Football League. The players go their separate ways next week, without knowing whether Fletcher will stay on as manager. Some of them are still unsure of their futures at the club, such as Durrell Berry, Robbie Williams and Warren Feeney. Fletcher said: "I'm sure everything will get taken care of in due course and everyone will be spoken to when they need to be." Tomorrow, will see Paul Bignot, Ashley Hemmings, Alex MacDonald and Juvhel Tsoumou all end their loan spells at Argyle. When Fletcher was asked whether he thought there was a chance of Argyle signing any of them, he replied: "I don't know. Possibly." When asked whether any talks had taken place already, he added: "Not that I would tell you about.
Argyle fans are being invited to get their opinions heard on all things Green by the club in an 'End of Season Survey', conducted independently by the Argyle Fans' Trust. The club and the Trust have been working together to update an on-line survey which has been taking place now for several years, to include a number of important questions that directly relate to the club's situation as it continues to re-build after the testing period of administration and the successful fight against relegation from League Two. A Trust spokesperson said: "We urge all Argyle fans to take the chance to tell us what they think of the club on and off the field, and explain what matters to them as fans. This is another good example of the Trust and Argyle working together to strengthen the bond between fans and their club." The survey can be completed online here: End of Season Survey or a paper version will be available at the Argyle Fans' Trust gazebos and information points at the Cheltenham home match tomorrow.
Maxime Blanchard has signed a new two-year contract with Argyle. He said: "The momentum is really interesting. The club has put the dark times behind them and now we need to kick on. The club has ambition and this is really important. We think we will be able to push on to the play offs next year. The relegation fight is like a promotion, so, for the long term, it is very interesting. I've always said I'm going to be happy to be part of history for this club. Hopefully, there will be a brighter future for the club and I want to be part of that history." Blanchard's partnership with Darren Purse has been key to Argyle's survival and he added: "I have enjoyed playing with him. We have enjoyed playing with each other as partnership, we understand each other really well. It's quite important, really, because you can't play in that position by yourself. If you take the whole team, the strikers are defending well, there is a really good defending spirit. So, hopefully, we can take it into next season and play even a bit more and set a bit more tempo."
Steve Fletcher believes Luke Young has great potential. He said: "He was involved in practically every game while I was there and I saw him progress. He got better every game, and I thought he was exceptional in the first half at Morecambe. Obviously, he's a young kid and he has got a lot to work on. He will get stronger with age. He's willing to work and is one of the last ones out on the training field every day. As a manager, when you are telling a kid to go in off the training field, that's a position you want to be in. You can't buy that. You don't want your younger players going in straight after training has finished. You want them out on the field, working on whatever. Youngy has got that in abundance and he has got every chance. He's very level-headed. He's quiet, but he listens and takes a lot on board. You can't really ask for much more than that."
Matt Lecointe has signed his first professional contract for Argyle. The length of the deal has not been disclosed, in line with a policy recently introduced by the club. Carl Fletcher said: "Matty has got good potential and he's a nice lad. He has been with the club since he was a young boy, he's a Plymouth lad, and he's exactly the sort of talent this club needs and has to bring on. The situation that we had earlier in the season meant that there were a lot of opportunities for the young lads because the squad was so small. In an ideal world, you'd like to feed them in little bit at a time but, if they're good enough while they're here, then it doesn't matter their age. You can't beat going out there on a Saturday at three o'clock, playing in a first-team game, to get experience."
Argyle and the other clubs in League Two next season will continue to be bound by a salary cap which restricts them to spending 55 per cent of their turnover on player wages. Any club deemed to have breached the permitted threshold will be subject to a transfer embargo. Argyle's acting chief executive and finance director, Martin Baker, supports the Salary Cost Management Protocol as a way of ensuring 'sensible financial discipline', but does have some concerns about the SCMP and the effect it can have on clubs when they are relegated. He said: "I think any measures which encourage sensible financial discipline are beneficial, if it helps sort out problems like Argyle went through in the last few years. From a personal point of view, I don't know whether 55 per cent is the right number, but that is what clubs have decided on. The one concern I would have is when clubs start to experience difficult times on the pitch and drop a division. Income from the Football League falls, other income falls, and they may well have legacy contracts when it comes to players' wages and it precludes them from taking on new blood. That can lead to one relegation being followed by another one." Baker admitted the impact on Argyle should be 'less onerous' next season, compared to this term. He said: "We are losing one or two legacy contracts in the summer and, hopefully, with administration behind the club we will get more members and more people committed to booking corporate events at Home Park and boosting our commercial income. Hopefully, it will make a difference next season, although that's not to say we will be going gung-ho when it comes to spending money."
Steve Fletcher believes that Carl Fletcher will continue as manager of Argyle next season. He said: "I know nothing is signed and sealed yet, but I'm sure Mr Brent will look at Carl and see he has got a huge future in the game. He's still young enough to play. I have spoken to him about it. If things didn't work out for him as a manager straight away, which I don't think will happen, he's young enough to keep playing for a few more years. He has got all the attributes to be a manager. Probably the biggest thing is he's willing to learn and do what it takes to become better and better. I can see that in him. He has worked under some good managers in his career. He started off with Sean O'Driscoll, who is very professional. He was ahead of his time at Bournemouth. I can see signs of Sean in Carl, with his discipline. He has had a good grounding in the game and I do believe he will be with Plymouth next season." Fletcher admitted he had enjoyed the experience of having his namesake as manager, albeit for only five weeks. He said: "It has been brilliant. I played with Carl for several years at Bournemouth and watched him come through the youth ranks. He had an old head on his shoulders then. He used to be a big presence and a big voice in the changing room at such a young age. It's the same now. I have a special bond with him, and I can sit and chat with him about certain things. He asks me my opinion on a lot of things, and that's great. He's a young manager and he wants to improve and progress. I know he has got the respect of everyone, from the older players to the younger boys. When he walks in the room, everyone knows he's in charge. For such a young manager, for the players to fight for him the way they have done and produce what they have done this season, I think that says it all." Fletcher sees a lot of similarities between Carl and Eddie Howe, who took over at Bournemouth at the age of 31. He said: "Hopefully, Carl can do what Eddie Howe did with us. There is no reason he can't. He has got a fantastic bunch of lads at Plymouth. The team spirit they have got, it comes around a couple of times in your career. I have had it probably twice with Bournemouth. You can't buy that. It just happens. Probably the position they found themselves in, this season and last, has brought everyone together. Everyone is pushing for the same thing and wants to achieve the same outcome, and that creates a massive team spirit. Everyone is great in the changing room and there is a good mixture of experienced players, some lads in their mid-20s and young boys. With a couple of additions to strengthen the squad, there is no reason why Plymouth can't go forward next season. It's an old cliché, but the club doesn't deserve to be in League Two. It has happened to many other teams over the years and you have got to deal with what is in front of you. I'm sure Carl is the person to lead them back into the higher leagues, definitely."
Ashley Hemmings is facing an uncertain future this summer. He said: "I'm out of contract at the end of the season. Wolves have lost their manager and I don't know what's going to happen yet. It's definitely an important time in my career. I'm 21 now and I need to be playing football week in, week out now." Hemmings has been grateful for all the support he has had during his stint at Argyle, after less successful previous loan spells at Cheltenham Town and Torquay United. "I'm very happy with how it has gone," he said. "It's my first season playing so many games and I thank all the staff and the players for having me here. It has been amazing. Since I have been here the fans have supported me so much and kept a smile on my face. A very big shout-out goes out to them as well."
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